Well. It has been a long time since I’ve written in this space. We’ve gone “off the grid” a bit and are currently living in a small rural town in Maine. This is our temporary housing situation until we close on our “real” Maine home in August. It has been an adjustment living in a small cabin, not all bad– just an adjustment.
The biggest adjustment has been dealing with the bugs in Maine. I thought the mosquitoes in Florida were awful…. Maine, well… the ticks, the brown-tail caterpillars… Now, they are no joke. We’ve been here for about 3 weeks, and both of our younger kids have been diagnosed with tick-borne illnesses. We’ve done tick checks, we try to keep them out of the tall grass, we spray (with chemical-free) bug sprays.
So, the point of me writing this is to tell you. I want you to create a tick kit. I want you to take ticks seriously.
I don’t care if you are not outdoorsy, if you don’t live in an endemic area, or if you take ALL of the precautions. Deer ticks are miniscule. A freckle. Tinier than a freckle. And time is critical in identifying the tick and taking precautions.
It is an adaptation to have to be so friggin’ hyper aware. However, it is necessary! If you, or anyone you know has battled Lyme disease– the effects can last a lifetime.
Every second that a tick is feeding on you or your child, it is potentially passing on Lyme, Babesia, Bartonella or other co-infections. Ticks often carry more than one infection. Again, time is crucial in removing and identifying the tick. Each moment you spend searching for tweezers or a plastic baggie, the tick is spreading more of its ick. Seriously.
A tick kit is simple. Having one on hand can help you beat the clock and remove and identify the tick ASAP. The contents are easy-peasy. It is just crucial to have them accessible and ready to go in a few moments. If you are like me, you will spend 30 minutes locating these items if they are not packed and ready to go.
- A few index cards
- A ziplock baggie
- Tweezers with a sharp point
- Clear tape
- Alcohol wipes
Just throw the contents in the baggie and put it in your travel pack or car if you are out and about or in your medicine cabinet at home.
How to Remove a Tick
- Use pointed tip tweezers and grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.
- Pull upward, without twisting or jerking so that you remove the tick completely. If your hand is not steady you may jerk the tick, leaving its mouthparts embedded in the skin. If this would happen, make sure to remove the mouthparts as well.
- After removing, tape the tick to the index card and write the details of time, date and location it was found. This is good information to have if symptoms appear. The doctors will have the full picture for treatment.
- Next, clean the bite with the alcohol wipe and watch and wait. Symptoms can occur 3-30 days post bite. Watch for fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, headaches or a bullseye rash.
Avoid using folk remedies to remove the tick. It has been found that applying nail polish, petroleum jelly, or any other number of remedies actually causes the tick to regurgitate its contents deeper into the skin.
Sending the Tick off for Testing
To get your tick tested, simply visit www.TickReport.com and follow instructions to receive your tick order number. Then place your tick in a ziplock bag, label it with your order number, and mail the labeled tick to the Laboratory of Medical Zoology, 270 Stockbridge Rd., University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003. Results will be sent to you in 3-5 business days.
This does not replace receiving medical advice/treatment, but it can give you an idea of what you are dealing with.
Take Tick Bites Seriously
An ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure, I’ve been told. Ticks are definitely something that can easily be missed. Some ways to make the burden of ticks less cumbersome– having your tick kit on hand is a priority. Also, wearing light-colored clothing and bundling up. Long pants, tucked into socks, long sleeves and hats can help protect. Tick checks. Checking every crevice, multiple times per day if you are in an endemic area and making sure to remove, save and identify.
If you find a deer tick embedded in skin, I definitely recommend saving the tick and seeking medical attention BEFORE you experience symptoms. There are prophylactic treatments available. I am not one to rush for medicine and love to do things naturally, however this is one instance that I stand behind doxycycline and feel its risks are minimal comparatively.